The Imagine Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics kicks off next week (12-18 March) and boasts its biggest ever programme, with over 80 free events across 30 venues throughout the city. Now in its fourth year, this diverse and strictly non-partisan festival hopes to stimulate new ideas on culture, politics and civic activism through an eclectic programme of talks, workshops, theatre, poetry, comedy, music, exhibitions, film and tours.
Founder and festival director Peter O’Neill said:
'More than ever, our society needs to cultivate a culture which provokes imaginative ideas and ways of engaging with each other on the big issues of our time. We want to encourage participation from people not normally involved in political debate and support initiatives that use art and culture to engage the general public on controversial themes. There’s something for everyone in our festival programme – most of the events are free and spread across the city. So join us in sparking some new ideas on politics and culture.'
The programme is packed with something for everyone but here are ten events not to be missed:
1. Homeward Bound (12 March, Accidental Theatre, Shaftesbury Square, 1pm-2pm)
This real-life play, written by Brian Daniels and organised by the NI Ethics Forum, gives people, especially health and social care professionals, the chance to reflect on the importance of compassionate end-of-life care. The performance will be followed by a discussion with the actors and the play’s inspiration, Lesley Goodburn.
2. Eight (13-15 March, Accidental Theatre, Shaftesbury Square, 7.30pm-9.30pm)
Eight, a play penned by Ella Hickson and directed by Rachel Coffey, provides a snapshot of the millennial generation: a student, a cheater, a teenager, a parent, a socialite, a high flier, a rebel and a homosexual. Whose story do you want to hear? Has the past informed the present? Have things really changed? The audience decides.
3. Emmet of Arabia (14 March, Sunflower Bar, 8pm-9pm)
Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria… In a world of endless, unjust wars, a young man from Derry/Londonderry decides to do something about it and join ISIS. Back home, his parents are mystified as to how this could have happened. Produced by Mockingbird Theatre Group, Emmet of Arabia is a touching and hilarious performance that presents a mix of viewpoints and arguments, both for and against, his puzzling actions.
4. Terror (15 March, Duncairn Arts Centre, 8pm-10pm; 16 March, Senate Room, Queen’s University Belfast, 5.30pm-7.30pm)
Major Lars Koch, pilot of a German Eurofighter, faces your verdict. Ordered to divert a hijacked Airbus from its course, can the Major do the right thing? There are 164 people on board and, in the aircraft’s path, a crowd of 70,000 football spectators. Koch must react. If the terrorist do not change course, can he shoot down a passenger jet? Ferdinand von Schirach’s debut play questions the very notion of human dignity. Can any human life be measured against others?
5. Resurrection Man (15 March, Strand Arts Centre, 8.30pm-10.30pm)
Celebrate the 20th anniversary of this Troubles-set film by joining novelist and screenwriter Eoin McNamee for a pre-screening conversation. The picture, written by McNamee, is based on the deeds of the Shankill Butchers in 1970s Belfast. Victor Kelly (Stuart Townsend) is a criminal and ruthless murderer, the leader of a gang known as ‘Resurrection Men’. On his trail is James Nesbitt’s journalist, Ryan.
6. The Bare Necessities (12-18 March, The Barracks, 11.30am-2.30pm & 5.30pm-8.30pm)
One woman, one room, one week. Artist Kate Guelke presents this unique performance, The Bare Necessities. She will spend the entirety of the festival barricaded in a small room at The Barracks theatre, placing herself in a contradictory space: in between the public and private, vulnerability and privilege. She will accept visitors and gifts, depending on her audience for those things essential to maintaining human life: food, water, even company. Kate is set to go back to basics and ponder what a person really needs to survive.
7. The Public Pulpit (17 March, St. Anne’s Cathedral carpark, 12pm-6pm)
The Public Pulpit is an open platform for discussion in the contemporary city of themes particular to our modern society and the politics of urban space. Developed by Ben Weir, he wants people to take ownership of one’s own voice and of public space through appropriation and inclusiveness. The purpose built 3.6m-tall wooden pulpit will stand for one day and be free for use by anyone who wants to use this ‘speaker’s corner’. Scheduled talks will begin at midday, with the public encouraged to engage afterwards.
8. Poetry Night (17 March, Crescent Arts Centre, 7.30pm-9.30pm)
Resident poet for BBC Radio Ulster’s Science & Stuff and former Ulster Poetry Slam Champion ,Colin Hassard (and his three-piece band, Dirty Words), will introduce a special Alternative St Paddy’s Day evening featuring the winners of Imagine’s poetry and conflict competition. Alongside him, the festival welcomes award-winning Scottish spoken word artist Leyla Josephine, who will take the audience on a journey through the attitudes of millennials. All this for £5 and it’s BYO!
9. ‘What has hip hop ever done for us?’ (18 March, Sunflower Bar, 7pm-12am)
Writer and filmmaker Eileen Walsh presents this unusual and quirky event that focuses on hip hop culture and its place within Northern Ireland’s political history. This is a celebration of Northern Ireland's growing hip hop scene, where sectarian baggage is left behind. It kicks off with a screening of the fascinating documentary by Belfast filmmaker Chris Eva: Bombin’, Beats and B-Boys, followed by a Breakers showcase and our comedy medic Dr Hip Hop, who will be dispensing both urban medical advice as well as some amazing prizes.
10. The End of the First World War and the New World Order (18 March, War Memorial Building, 2pm-4am)
This year marks the centenary of the ending of the First World War. How and why did it end and what sort of world did it bring into being? To discuss these and related questions join History Ireland editor Tommy Graham for a lively discussion with John Horne (TCD), Fearghal McGarry, Margaret Ward and Margaret O’Callaghan (all QUB).
Tickets and the full programme are available on https://imaginebelfast.com